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Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday, Feb. 4 demanded an end to negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union and a deal on reopening by the end of the day.

Manuel Martinez

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: Lightfoot Says CTU Wants To Run City Hall

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1. Lightfoot accuses the Chicago Teachers Union of wanting to run City Hall

Despite securing a deal to begin reopening the city’s public schools, Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to blast the Chicago Teachers Union. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Lightfoot says the union has ambitions to “take over running the city government.”

“When you have unions that have other aspirations beyond being a union, and maybe being something akin to a political party, then there’s always going to be conflict,” Lightfoot said.

The CTU responded on Twitter: “Not like we’ve been talking about increasing school funding, strengthening bilingual and special ed, or real equity for the last decade or anything… .”

Lightfoot also told the Times that she would not have been able to reopen schools if an elected school board oversaw Chicago Public Schools. Lightfoot previously campaigned on establishing an elected school board. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, Chicago came closer to seeing a teachers strike than previously known.

The Chicago Tribune reports Lightfoot privately told people she was not optimistic a deal could be reached over reopening schools. And she told aldermen in a briefing that CPS CEO Janice Jackson thought the mayor gave too much up to the union, the newspaper reports. [Chicago Tribune]

How long can the fighting continue between Lightfoot and the teachers union? Some parents recently told WBEZ that they are losing faith in the school district. [WBEZ]

2. Illinois surpasses 20,000 deaths from COVID-19

State officials today reported there have been a total of 20,002 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, there have been more than 1.1 million known cases reported.

The grim milestone comes as the number of cases and deaths are declining, but health experts warn that infections still remain high, with a weekly average or more than 1,000 new cases. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, Chicago is close to meeting all the benchmarks for removing more restrictions on indoor dining. As Block Club Chicago reports, capacity limits at bars and restaurants could be bumped up to 40% if the average number of cases is below 400 today and tomorrow. [Block Club Chicago]

Nationally, health experts are debating why cases and deaths are falling. One group points to the vaccine rollout and the virus’s seasonality, while others credit social distancing measures. [Washington Post]

And some scientists want to create a way to warn the public about viruses that is like a weather forecasting system. [New York Times]

3. With the impeachment trial over, Congress focuses on Biden’s stimulus plan

Congressional Democrats are aiming to quickly approve President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package before millions of Americans lose their jobless benefits next month. The House is preparing to approve its part of the plan as soon as next week, when lawmakers return from a recess.

In addition to sending $1,400 stimulus checks to many Americans and beefing up unemployment benefits, Biden’s plan would also provide about $350 billion to states and local governments that have seen their budgets decimated by the pandemic, resulting in cuts to city services.

According to The Washington Post, 1 in 20 government jobs have been lost since the pandemic began last year. [WaPo]

In Illinois, Gov. JB Pritzker is expected this week to lay out an outline for closing a $3 billion deficit. The Chicago Tribune reports that a recent proposal in Congress would give Illinois $7.5 billion in federal relief, but that could change. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Biden wants to turn to immigration, criminal justice reform, climate change, infrastructure and health care after Congress approves his relief plan. [NYT]

4. No criminal charges will be filed in deadly Legionnaires’ outbreaks at Illinois veterans’ home

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is closing a criminal investigation without filing charges relating to the state’s mishandling of deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at a downstate veterans’ home, reports WBEZ’s Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney.

The outbreaks took place at the state-run Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy beginning in 2015, and the deaths of 14 residents have been tied to them.

Raoul’s decision not to file criminal charges stemming from the crisis effectively brings to an end a six-year saga that was the subject of a yearslong WBEZ investigation, which changed state law, shaped a gubernatorial election and triggered construction of a new, more than $230 million veterans’ home in Quincy. [WBEZ]

5. If you thought the snowstorm in Chicago was bad ...

Millions of people in Texas were without power this morning after a severe cold snap hit central and southern parts of the country. Rolling blackouts have been ordered in the state in an effort to preserve the integrity of the electric system. Officials said the blackouts could last into Tuesday.

The dangerous weather conditions come after the entire state of Texas was put under a winter storm for the first time. [CNN]

Meanwhile, the Chicago area could see up to 10 inches of snow today into tomorrow. The weather is expected to be so bad that all city-run COVID-19 testing sites have been ordered to remain closed tomorrow. [Chicago Tribune]

Here’s what else is happening

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced lawmakers will create an independent commission to investigate the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. [Reuters]
  • An Ebola epidemic has been declared in Guinea as West Africa struggles to contain the coronavirus. [Axios]
  • Puerto Rico’s efforts to attain statehood could move forward next month. [Axios]
  • Correction: Last month, we reported that Matthew Heimbach was among those pictured inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 during an attempted coup. Law enforcement officials recently identified and arrested another man depicted in those pictures. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Are you wondering when it’s your turn to get a COVID-19 shot in Illinois? WBEZ created this handy tool that helps you figure out when you’re eligible for a vaccine.

All you have to do is answer four questions, and you’ll get a date and information about what phase you might be in. [WBEZ]

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